Hope College junior Ashley Trojniak of Sterling Heights won the “Outstanding Student Poster Award” in the COLL Student Poster Contest, held during the Aug. 20–24 National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). She was the only undergraduate selected for an award and was chosen from among about 150 presenters, most of whom were graduate students.
For many people, coming to college is an anxiety-ridden time. Like many freshmen, I had what felt like a million worries about starting college. What would my major be? Would I do well in my classes? How and where would I find friends? After my first week of Watershed, almost all those worries had dissipated. I met ten other students who had similar interests to me, most of whom I am still very close to. I gained valuable knowledge and experience through hands-on learning and research. I also got to know my two advisers, who also turned into some of the most influential professors I have had so far.
One of the most valuable parts of the Day1 program was the research experience. Because the Watershed project has real-world applications and consequences, we took part in real applications of the scientific method. I had a great experience coming up with research questions and hypotheses, as well as sampling in the field, analyzing samples via wet lab techniques, researching previously performed experiments, and learning how to use computer programming to draw conclusions from data. Since I have put those skills on my résumé, they have already helped me earn a summer research job.
The Day1 program has been extremely valuable to me on a social basis as well as professionally. All students in the Watershed group as well as many students in the Phage group live in Lichty Hall, one of the smallest dorms on campus. Almost everyone in Lichty is a science major, which creates a unique atmosphere. On any given night, there are a ton of people in the basement or lounge doing homework, studying, or just goofing off. Although it is probably not the best place to find quiet time, you can always find someone else studying for the same test or doing the same homework if you need help. I am so grateful to have found the unique Lichty community and would recommend it to anyone looking for a tight-knit community and friend group.
When I first enrolled in a Day1 program I was excited about the opportunity to take part in a real-world research project. I had not put much thought into the idea of what it meant to be part of a ‘living-learning community’, however, now that I have completed my freshmen year I have discovered what it really means to be part of the community in Lichty hall.
While it has many similarities to the other living communities on campus, it also possesses several key factors that make it stand out from the rest. Lichty is one of the smallest halls on campus, giving you the unique opportunity to have a real and meaningful relationship with almost everyone in your dorm, but also large enough to offer a great deal of variety in the kinds of people you will meet. The size of the hall encourages residents to build a tight-knit community where everyone has a sense of belonging and purpose. Lichty is also a part of the south-side residential community, which means there are three other halls right next-door if you ever feel that your social circle is too small. The ‘living’ part of the ‘living-learning’ community transitions perfectly into the learning portion.
One of my favorite things about living in Lichty was the fact that there was always someone in the common areas either studying or having fun (often a mixture of the two). Whether cramming for a test or simply trying to complete a last minute homework assignment, there was always someone there who was willing and able to help. This kind of support network helps you to focus yourself and even share your knowledge with others when they are in need. If any part of this community interests you, I wholeheartedly encourage you to sign-up and become part of a Day1 research program.
As Eleda Plouch, a freshman from Greenfield, Indiana, prepared for her first semester of college last summer, various thoughts raced through her mind. Would she enjoy her classes? How would she deal with the stress of schoolwork?
When asked about my favorite class this year, my answer has been, without fail, the Phage Day 1 Lab. While not everyone shares my enthusiasm for mixing viruses with bacteria and growing them on Petri dishes (it does sound a little odd, if you think about it), I can honestly say that joining the Phage Day 1 program was one of the best decisions I made coming into college. This lab provides a unique opportunity for hands-on, exploratory learning in a schedule otherwise filled with introductory, largely memorization-based classes. Don’t get me wrong – I love learning about biology in any setting, including lecture. However, there is something special about knowing that the work I do in lab is not a mere learning exercise, but directly contributes to a growing body of cutting-edge scientific research. It’s a small contribution, but I take some pride in knowing that the phage I isolated, studied, and yes, came to love over the first semester is stored in a database with my name beside it.
The aspect I enjoy most about Phage lab is the hands-on approach to learning laboratory procedures. We read about techniques, talk them through with our professor, and then do them. It was great to see my classmates’ and my growth over the first semester as we developed from unsure, somewhat clumsy amateurs asking questions every five seconds to confident budding scientists who know how to design our own experiments and think critically about solving potential issues. As a Biology major hoping to enter the field of medical research, this course has given me both practical experience and confidence in carrying out laboratory procedures. It also provides a strong base from which to apply for future research experiences at Hope and beyond.
The final thing that makes me love Phage lab is the fact that it is just so much fun. I have become friends with many of the people in my class, where the small size and common purpose create a sense of unique comradery. This is the class where I can share nerdy jokes and know they will be appreciated, where I can ask a peer a complicated question about biology and know they will understand it, and where I and my friends can sing along to Disney songs while performing an experiment (one of my fondest memories from lab). The Phage Day 1 program allows me to further my knowledge of biology in a unique and sincerely enjoyable way. It has become one of the defining aspects of why I love Hope.
I joined the Day1: Watershed program purely out of curiosity and the “Why not?” spirit. When I saw postings about the program, I said, “Why not?” and promptly requested more information.
From the perspective of a music student, the Day1 program is a fun and challenging program to be a part of. It has given me the opportunity to learn in many disciplines, including microbiology, biology, and chemistry. What I have enjoyed the most about Day1: Watershed is the diversity of the course. One week we may be filtering samples from Lake Macatawa and the next week we could be writing code to create graphs of our data. For any student, especially the non-STEM student, the Day1 course is a refreshing and intellectually thought-provoking opportunity.
So if you are interested in joining Day1 and are not planning on studying a STEM field, I encourage you to embrace the “Why not?” attitude and take advantage of the Day1: Watershed program.
Phage Genomics research was my favorite class during either semester of my freshmen year. It offered an experience that no other class I’ve taken has offered: a chance to become involved in actual scientific research and to see if research was the career for me.
The class provides a great opportunity not only to learn biology in the lab, but also a chance to solve problems that you may have never experienced before. For me, this process of solving these issues was extremely rewarding, despite being challenging at times.
A main purpose in the first semester of the course is to isolate your own bacteriophage, or phage, a virus that infects a specific type of bacteria, from soil samples that you can bring from home or that you find around Hope’s campus. This really makes your work in this class feel very personalized and individualistic. Even though your classmates will be working on the same procedures, because you each isolate a different phage, there will likely be different steps you take within those procedures, and it can be exciting to figure out what specifically you will need to do in order to isolate your phage and its DNA.
The second semester of the course is a bit different. Instead of doing wet lab work, you will be primarily work in the computer lab in order to analyze the genomes of several phages that you or your classmates had isolated in the previous semester. This work, though challenging at first, is extremely rewarding when you make a new discovery or make a breakthrough on a problem that had previously stumped you.
Phage was a big reason that I decided to come to Hope College. The opportunities it provides were a draw for me, and I am not disappointed with my decision to take this course. I now am looking forward to a career in biology research, and I am actively involved in summer research in biology. If you’re looking for a chance to do real scientific research straight out of the gate when you get to college, I cannot recommend taking Phage enough to anyone interested in biology.
Moving away from home for the first time can be pretty rough, especially when you don’t know anyone. This is where the Day1 programs have the upper hand. Everyone in the Day1: Watershed and Day1: Great Lakes programs are housed in Lichty Hall, and the other Day1 programs have the option of living there, as well. I was unsure about this. The college was creating a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) community, I understood that, but I didn’t really want to live in what I saw as the “Nerd Dorm”. However, I decided to do it anyway, and my idea of the “Nerd Dorm” was not what I encountered on move-in day. What I found instead were people that shared the same interests as me and had similar hobbies as me, like video games or playing basketball and being active.
The nice thing about living in the STEM residence hall was that everyone else was either taking the same classes as I was, or they had already tested out of them. So it was extraordinarily easy to find someone who could help me understand equilibrium and electrochemistry, or memorize the nitrogen cycle. Living in Lichty may have been a little atypical of the normal “college experience,” but it was awesome regardless.
During the summer before freshman year at Hope College a student must register for all of their first semester classes. One of those classes must be a first year seminar (FYS). An FYS is basically an introductory course to college life, they focus on a variety of topics ranging from trains, or bees, to different types of research. Along with the course material one of the objectives of an FYS is to prepare a student to transition into their college life.
When I looked over the list of FYS’s while registering, my eye was caught by a certain program. Day1: Watershed was listed as an opportunity to get firsthand, real-life research experience as a freshman. After reading the description I was even more excited; I knew that I wanted to study biology, so this class was going to be perfect. This brand-new program’s focus was on assessing the overall health of the Lake Macatawa watershed to determine if the restoration project known as Project Clarity was actually restoring it. In order to do this, several different aspects of the water would be tested by gathering water samples from several sites throughout the watershed and analyzing them. Students in the Watershed class would also be moving in earlier than the rest of the freshmen to start researching right away.
The reason the Day1 programs move in early is to get a head start on research, and that’s exactly what we did. One of the first activities was to kayak down the river to see where we would be sampling, and then we drove the vans out to the different sites and took the water samples, stopping for a picnic in between. After collecting all of the samples we started the wet lab work, which was challenging but definitely worth it. During that week we also read a lot for our FYS portion of the class and got to explore Hope’s campus. Despite the busy agenda of the first week, things mellowed out enough to allow me adjust to the rest of my classes when they started.
Through my work with the watershed program I was able to gain firsthand research experience and knowledge, and from that I was able to get a paid research position over the summer. The opportunities that presented themselves through the Day1 program have been incredible, and I am extremely glad that I was able to take this course.
Being a part of Day 1 Great Lakes has been a highlight of my freshman year. I was able to experience field work, meet lots of new people early on in the school year, and live in the best residence hall on campus! What most attracted me to this program was the opportunity to be outside a classroom setting and do hands-on research. I love anything outdoors, so hiking the Great Lakes dunes and conducting research was something that really interested me.
Four days before freshman orientation week, I and other Great Lakes students moved onto campus. It was nice to come early because we avoided the stress and chaos of freshman move-in day. After we moved into our rooms, all of us Great Lakers attended a picnic at Kollen Park, where we got to know our professors, TAs, and fellow student researchers. The following day, field work began! We drove out to Flower Creek Dunes and collected data on Pitcher’s Thistle, a threatened plant native to the Great Lakes. We scouted the dunes, flagged and tagged Pitcher’s Thistles, and measured information on the plant. It was incredible to collect data on the beautiful beaches of Lake Michigan. The second day of field work was similar to the first, but the third day, our professors gave us a fun day. We hiked through the dunes, had a picnic by the water, and enjoyed the sun. Afterwards our professors even bought us ice cream! Overall, the field research was a great experience. It was awesome to analyze our data that we collected and other data pertaining to environmental issues of the Great Lakes in our FYS class. It was also cool to know that the research and statistics we were doing had real world applications to the environment.